Monday, 16 May 2016

THE 2016 ONTARIO HERITAGE CONFERENCE SNAPSHOT

HERITAGE MOMENTS

BY: JOCELYN KENT

Welcome, readers, to the first instalment of Heritage Moments, a new column covering all things heritage! Today’s article features a special report on this past weekend’s Ontario Heritage Conference, held May 12-14 in Stratford and St. Marys, Ontario. 

In such idyllic locales, the sold-out conference attracted fantastic panels and enthusiastic attendees from a wide range of backgrounds. While it was impossible to attend everything (as many as four sessions ran simultaneously), I bring you my Top 10 “In Case You Missed It” list!

OHC Banner. Source.

1. Keynote speaker David Prosser got the conference off with an outstanding start by exploring the festival’s enormous debt to the city’s heritage. Perhaps you could guess that the city’s British namesake played a critical role in initiating its production of renowned Shakespearean theatre. 
Map of the birthplace of playwright and actor William Shakespeare. Source
It makes sense, too, that tourist theatre-goers enjoy being surrounded by the city's beautiful buildings. But did you know that Stratford’s long industrial heritage provides the warehouses which now home much of the festival’s behind-the-scenes departments ranging from fabricators and costume shops to the archives?
The former Stratford Normal School now houses Stratford Festival offices. Source.

2. There were four types of presentations: panels, walking tours, a dramatic vignette and keynote speakers.

3. An excellent presentation from a large panel on the topic of engaging First Nations in archaeology and heritage assessments. Consultation with First Nations should be about creating a two-way conversation that respects nationhood. 
Dr. Gary Warrick speaking on the Oka Crisis. Photo credit: author.

4. During Friday’s lunch, we were treated to a dramatic vignette entitled "Ladies of the CNR" which is bringing awareness to Stratford's cultural heritage by sharing stories about women during WWII who worked in the locomotive repair shops, now an abandoned building in town. 
The creative team with the repair shops behind them. Source.

5. Considering the projected pressures facing agricultural areas, including reduced farming populations and increased urban sprawl, this informative presentation illustrated the necessity of rural communities to defend their heritage through strategic thinking and strong local leadership. 
Wayne Caldwell connecting us to the issues of rural communities. Photo credit: author.

6. Did you know that post-WWII buildings make up less than 1% of all heritage designations under the Ontario Heritage Act? This fascinating panel featured insightful and often humorous stories of getting neighbourhoods of modernist architecture designated as a Heritage Conservation District. 
The panel taking questions from the audience. Photo credit: author.

7. After speaking with a range of people and glancing through the participant list, the majority of attendees were heritage activists, volunteers and professionals alike, who have worked to protect their local historical buildings.

8. Following a great day of lectures, Friday's social event included an elegant dinner based on Canada's food heritage. 
Local greens, including two tempura battered maple leaves. Photo credit: author.

9. Journalists of all forms did a fantastic job during Saturday morning’s session on how to get traditional media to cover local stories of buildings that need saving, by making it as easy as possible for overburdened reporters and emphasizing a site’s human impact.

10. Notwithstanding the OHC’s attempts to recruit student and emerging professional conference speakers, they were underrepresented. Silver lining: Opportunities for next year! Topics discussed in the Museum Studies program on tangible heritage would easily fit, so keep the conference in mind if are looking to present your research!

Thank you to everyone at the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario and Community Heritage Ontario who united to make the joint-2016 conference such a success.

BONUS: Snow and hail in mid-May? What?!

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